Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reading the Bible

I've read the scripture often in my life. That doesn't necessarily make me more spiritual, but I do have some experience, and therefore, perhaps some wisdom to share.

First, let me say that the Bible is an invaluable tool for being a true, mature disciple of Jesus Christ. It is useful for teaching and rebuke.

Second, the Bible cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit. The Bible works directly in conjuction with the Spirit. The two will always agree. God will never lead you opposite of the clear teaching of the scripture. The Bible will confirm the leading of the Spirit and the Spirit will confirm the truth of the Bible. Always.

Third, we must not worship the Bible or our own interpretation of it. While we may need to dig a little to understand what is said, those treasures will never contradict what is plainly taught. Many have been led astray by strict interpretation and deep liberal theology.

The Bible is a wealth of information about God (again, it is not God and not ever meant to replace Him or the Holy Spirit), His character, what is important to Him, practical ways to express your worship to Him. Without its dilligent study, therefore, we will be left quite immature.

I've heard the question asked recently: Should we require Christians to read it more? The question is valid. However, I believe the inference inherent within the question stems from an ignorant perspective.

If reading the scripture more would benefit the Christian, why not require them to do it more? The problem with some lies in the word "require", of course. We don't want to be seen as legalistic or "works oriented."

So we change the word to "encourage" instead of "require" and we feel a whole lot better about it (which, ironically, could be another type of legalism altogether).

But we're still kinda missing the point. The problem with requiring or encouraging people to read the Bible is this: we will only be casting pearls before swine if they're not willing to do what it says. If it is only an intellectual endeavor or a way to support a doctrine we already believe (which is many times the case), then we are only giving fuel to deception. Satan can quote the Bible verbatim, but I'm told not to listen to a word he says.

Another example is Jesus' parable about the two men building houses, one on a rock foundation and the other on the sand. Both men heard Jesus' words. The difference? The man with his house on a rock DID THEM. The other heard but did not do. And he fell. "And great was that fall."

To some Jesus is salvation, to others He is a stumbling block ... the difference? Who wants true transformation and who wants religious formulas?

I'm okay with Christians who just have no motivation to read. Sometimes it is an innocence or ignorance born of lack of experience, i.e., God hasn't spoken to them through the written word before, no fruit when He might, not sure of the Voice, etc. Many times it is a lack of conviction because God knows their hearts: they are resistant to change. And God witholds more revelation, conviction, or motivation out of His mercy and the inevitability of their response anyway. All they know is, "I don't feel like it," which to them is reason enough (they might even say spiritual phrases like "it's not on my heart" or have a theological basis for their choice).

So where I've come to is this. If you're not willing to read the Bible and really change, whatever that might mean to GOD, don't read it. That's my encouragement. If you're reading out of obligation or duty or intellectual curiosity, put it down. If you want transformation, read it and do it. There are countless parables and lessons from Christ to support that statement. If not, you're just setting yourself up for a fall.

And if we require/encourage people to read the scripture without first counting the cost, then we're the ones setting them up for failure and we will reap what we sow.

Peace.

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